Beloved traditions are woven into every part of our camp experience. Many of these traditions go back nearly a hundred years, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t also develop new traditions over time.

The Teams

Probably our most important tradition that dates back to 1927, the year camp started, and one from which other traditions listed below have evolved, are the two teams – The Greens and The Buffs.  They compete throughout our main session of the Six Weeks in both athletic and non-athletic events. Every ten days, we hold an Honor Meet where the Captain of the Team that has accrued the most points during that period gets to carry the honorary torch to Vesper Hill, our picturesque campfire circle, to light the ceremonial fire. Every Three and Six Week camper is placed on one of the two Teams on Team Night, the first Tuesday of each Three Week Session. Once named to a Team, that is a girl’s Team for life.

Church & Vespers

We are NOT a religiously-based camp! But we do believe in the spiritual one encounters day-to-day at CMS; the spirit one finds in nature; the spirit one finds living in community and through the development of relationships; and the spirit that one seeks in one’s self as each girl discerns her true essence.  As described by one camper, Spiritual Awareness, one of our Five Virtues, “is about taking in the spirit of camp and letting it help you become who you really are deep down. It’s about being true to yourself and letting your own light shine as brightly as it can. I think camp lets everyone’s personal light be seen and be deeply appreciated by all around them.” Church, a throwback term when CMS was Christian-oriented pre-1990s, is a program held each Sunday in West Lodge during the Six Weeks. A cabin of older girls will adopt a theme, perhaps one of our Five Virtues or one of the Twelve Laws of Woodcraft or simply talk about the meaning of camp, with each girl writing a personal piece relating to that theme that is shared with the entire camp. We sing camp songs and our music class performs a song rehearsed the week leading up to Sunday.  Vespers is similar to Church but is an evening activity held on Vesper Hill with a campfire and presented by a cabin of younger girls. Roots & Shoots campers participate in an evening of Vespers their final night of camp.


Every new Three and Six Weeker is initiated into the camp family the first Monday night of each Three Week session.  The Junior Counselors (our oldest campers at the age of 16) perform a rite of passage ritual welcoming each girl into camp by recounting our Twelve Laws of Woodcraft and reciting a statement explaining the essence of Camp Mont Shenandoah to new campers.  That evening, new campers are given a “forfeit” to be shared with campers and counselors following lunch the next day. A forfeit may be dressing up as a certain character or singing a song to the JCs.  Gifts of food (provided by camp) to the JCs are often involved!

Buds & Blooms

Started in the late 1990s, Buds & Blooms is a little sister/big sister program we created to help new campers in the Three and Six Weeks become acclimated to CMS, our culture, our grounds, and our schedule.  An older camper, usually 14 or 15 years of age, is paired with a new camper. “Blooms” spend Opening Days with their “Buds” involved in many get-to-know-you activities and games. They are assigned to the same table in the Feed Bag for meals the first week of each session.

Fives & Tens

The Fives are campers and counselors who have spent – you guessed it – five summers or more at CMS (counting Three and Six Week summers). While everyone knows who is a member of The Fives, only Fives know what takes place during meetings and during the off-site trip taken each summer.  The Fives are responsible for our Fives Vespers, a traditional evening activity the final Monday night of the Six Weeks that explains in detail The Twelve Laws of Woodcraft which sets us up for the selection of Camp Spirit and the Final Honor Meet.

Like The Fives, The Tens are a group of staff (and on rare occasion, an older camper), that have spent ten summers at CMS.

The Sandpainting and the Twelve Laws of Woodcraft

In a book published in 1925, Ernest Thompson Seton, creator of the Woodcraft Indian and an integral part of the Boy Scouts formative years at the turn of the 20th century, wrote about the Sandpainting and the Twelve Laws.  The Sandpainting is a symbol of the power of the Great Fire. Beginning with a circle in reverence to the Great Spirit, there are four arcs – four smaller fires: Fortitude, Beauty, Truth, and Love. It is out of these four fires that the Twelve Laws extend as golden rays: Be Brave, Be Silent; Obey. Be Clean; Be Strong; Protect Wildlife Always. Speak True; Be reverent; Play Fair As You Strive. Be Kind; Be Helpful; Be Glad You Are Alive. At Camp Mont Shenandoah, we teach girls to abide by these Twelve Laws and integrate them into their everyday lives. We consider them a way of being and moving through the world.

The Five Virtues

Different from the Twelve Laws of Woodcraft, we design all of our programming around our Five Virtues of Love, Loyalty, Friendship, Sportsmanship, and Spiritual Awareness.  They are guiding principles, offer opportunities for character building, and are emblematic of what we stand for.

Christmas In July

Every July 25th we celebrate Christmas at camp, resplendent with decorations and fun outfits.  We recognize the day as one of giving and sharing (not religiously). A day or two beforehand, a camper draws the name of another camper. The camper that does the drawing is the Will-o’-the-Wisp that makes little gifts to give to the camper whose name she drew but remains a secret to the receiver of the gifts.  She reveals herself at a big celebration Christmas night when she gives a larger, final gift to the other camper. In current times, our W.O.T.W. is often referred to as a “Secret Santa”.

Parents Weekend

Parents Weekend is exactly what it states – a weekend where parents of Six and First Three Weekers are invited to a Directors’ Reception and buffet dinner Friday night followed by a full day of activities on Saturday, including a delicious buffet lunch for campers, families, and friends.  First Three Weekers depart by late afternoon on Saturday and Second Three Weekers arrive the following day, a Sunday.  Six Weekers enjoy a special evening on “Changeover Night”.

Junior Counselors

Affectionately referred to as the JCs, this is a group of girls who are 16 years of age and are our oldest campers at camp.  Most have spent several summers together developing a strong bond over the years.  They are given a number of duties and privileges not afforded to other campers. Most often, they are elected as the leaders of the Greens and the Buffs. The one requirement to becoming a JC is to attend camp as a Six Weeker at the age of 15 to foster the bond of sisterhood.

Honor Campers

Honor Campers are selected every ten days by the counseling staff and are announced at the beginning of each Honor Meet.  There are no set criteria upon which the selection takes place but Honor Campers are often praised for their helpfulness, kindness, willingness to engage and make friends, liveliness (but they aren’t necessarily the loudest), and overall positive attitude.

Camp Spirit

Camp Spirit is best described as the embodiment of the Twelve Laws of Woodcraft and our Five Virtues.  We fully believe that each girl takes home a piece of Camp Spirit that she carries inside of her so that she may embody these wholesome traits in her day-to-day life.  At the end of each Six Weeks, one girl is selected as Camp Spirit by the entire camp community, both campers and staff.  She is identified as the camper for that season who best personifies the Spirit of Camp Mont Shenandoah. It is during the Sandpainting ceremony at the Final Honor Meet the last night of camp that she is identified and recognized in front of the camp community.

Final Week! (of the Six Week Session)

Senior Musical, Horse Show and Fives Vespers

There are several significant and loved traditions that occur throughout this week starting with the Senior Musical Saturday evening. Within a five-week timeframe, the girls learn their lines, songs, and choreography with a final outcome of an excellent musical production.  Monday is the Horse Show where all riders have the chance to showcase their equestrian talents in front of a real and often certified judge. The day concludes with one girl winning the championship trophy. That evening is Fives Vespers where the Twelve Laws of Woodcraft are expounded upon leading into the Final Honor Meet and Camp Spirit Ceremony of Friday night.

Songfest and Greens and Buffs

We have a rich and enduring singing history with many of our camp songs coming from Songfest, Tuesday night’s performance and team competition between the Greens and the Buffs.  It is one of the non-athletic events in which the two teams compete.  There are three judges, one Buff Team alumna, one Green Team alumna, and an individual with a professional musical background.

Wishing Boats

Wednesday evening is Wishing Boats, a favorite tradition among many.  It is a serene, reflective, peaceful night where campers and counselors gather on the banks of the river to watch the Camp Crafts counselors place a small boat consisting of a piece of bark with a candle in the water, one for each camper and counselor as her name is called out.  As tradition goes, if your Wishing Boat makes it to the top of the rapids without going out, your wish will come true. After the final Wishing Boat is placed in the water, the girls linger along the river as the skies grow dark and sing loved camp songs.

Team Dinners and Awards Campfire

Thursday night we have Team Dinners followed by the Awards Campfire. The Buffs and The Greens go to a location on the camp property where each team shares in a picnic dinner and one of their final moments to be together as a team. After dinner, the entire camp processes to Vesper Hill for the Awards Campfire where many campers are recognized for their achievements and awards are handed out.

Final Banquet, Final Honor Meet and Sandpainting Ceremony

Friday night is the culmination of the Six weeks starting with Final Banquet. The counseling staff, who have worked all summer on the chosen theme (a surprise to the campers), transform the Feed Bag, our dining hall, with scenery and decorations. Past themes have included Dr. Suess, Harry Potter, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo. The counselors don costumes, perform a skit, and sing songs written just for the evening.  Following this fun yet emotional event, campers line up by team for the Final Honor Meet where the Captain of the team that has accrued the most points over the course of the Six Weeks carries the honorary torch to Vesper Hill to light the closing campfire with the two teams processing behind singing “Follow the Gleam”.  It is at the very end of the evening that the Sandpainting Ceremony takes place and the camper selected as Camp Spirit is announced.

Packing List

Everything you should bring to camp, from cabin and bath supplies to daily camp essentials.

Let's Go!